Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Why "Extremis" by Steven Moffat (2017) is a masterpiece

I'm basically a bit suspicious whenever people say a certain story isn't "needed". Or "necessary" or other words to that effect. No story is needed or necessary in any way whatsoever. I know that's a bit unfair on people using those words because it's not quite what they mean, but I do think it's a helpful starting point for perhaps sharpening our senses on why we talk about stories in these terms, where "needed" or "necessary" become barometers of whether something is worth one's time or not. Boiling entertainment down to whether it's "necessary" or not does seem an awfully clinical way of looking at things. There are books or films which I don't want to waste my time on, sure, because they don't look like my cup of tea, but I don't think that makes them "unnecessary" per se. Is a story good? Does it entertain people? Then its existence is justified, surely.

I'm also suspicious of the way "needed" and "necessary" are bandied about because I think people are only use them on the prosaic plot level: is X episode of Doctor Who necessary for the plot of the next one? Is a wikipedia summary of Extremis needed to grasp the wikipedia summary of The Pyramid at the End of the World? Well, you know, maybe not. But that's plot, not story. Plots are accounts of what happened; stories are how those happenings feel. The former is something it makes sense to discuss in terms of "needed" and "necessary"; the latter less so.

Mark Gatiss at the Oxford Union

This afternoon I had the pleasure of hearing Mark Gatiss - the well-known actor and writer - speak at the Oxford Union. As many readers will know, Mark cuts a charming and suave figure and is always good value in these sorts of settings. He's best known, indeed, for playing charming and suave characters (albeit also rather sinister ones): Mycroft Holmes, Stephen Gardiner, Tycho Nestoris, Peter Mandelson. The usual suspects. And in person he is, indeed, a very lovely man (his parting words to my friend Louis McEvoy and myself - see the picture on right - were "speaking as someone who wore tweed a lot in my twenties, a word of advice: it's just too damn hot. Dress like Peter Davison instead!"). That said, he's also a lovely man who is very angry and unhappy with the current state of the world. Both Louis and myself had the opportunity of asking questions both in the Chamber itself - where the Q&A took place - and afterwards in the Union bar (pictured). Details follow.